All Banality Is Relative

I was very much in support of the War of Independence. Or I would have been, if the Founding Fathers had extended to me the basic courtesy of asking my opinion. King George was just begging to be made an example of; I know I wasn’t alone in this opinion. Anyway, no, I’m not a big fan of the Royals. When I’m in England, I do use the money with the Queen’s face on it, but only because I can’t seem to run faster than an irate shopkeeper.

I’m also a huge fan of astronomy. That’s another thing I definitely would have voted for, if God had named me to His exploratory committee on the creation of the Universe, some 6000 years ago.

(I also would have suggested that when He faked all of the fossil evidence implying evolution and a much older planet, he should arrange some of the dinosaur skeletons in funny poses before He buried them. Archaeology is hot, back-breaking, and mostly thankless work. The unexpected discovery of a stegosaurus apparently sniffing another stegosaurus’ butt would add a welcome bit of levity to a grad student’s long, rough day, I reckon.)

I feel like I need to make both of those points before I say what I’m about to say:

1) You are very right to make fun of the banality of the Jubilee Flotilla. Even moreso if you made fun of people who acted as though it was about the most intensely impressive and moving sight of this or any other lifetime, doubleplus-moreso if this reaction came from the TV coverage.

(I tuned in to BBC America long enough to see a reporter interview someone who’d baked a commemorative Jubille cake in the shape of one of the Queen’s Corgis. And then I realized that somewhere on that same cable box, scruffy men and women were bidding on the unseen contents of storage lockers, and then I changed the channel.)

2) You lose a lot of your credibility, however, if you don’t acknowledge the same things about the Transit of Venus. Because both events were pretty much the same, from a spectator’s perspective. It’s something moving very slowly from Point A to Point B. That’s it.

“But…the majesty of the heavens!” you sputter. “The intricate and ineffable dance of immense celestial bodies, locked into the timestep of Newtonian rhythms! It won’t happen again for more than a century!”

Right, and now you’ve proven that the Transit of Venus was in fact even less impressive than the flotilla. The Brits have put a lot of miles on this Queen and they’ve kept her in service long past the date when they think about de-orbiting a monarch, before its instability becomes a hazard to others. In this sense, HM is like one of the Mars Rovers, with an extravagantly silly hat.

But! We’re most definitely not going to see her again in 100 years, nor 100 years after that. On that basis, what’s so special about something that happens over and over again, forever and ever?

I watched the official NASA livestream for a little while. I hit the Eject button at the point where someone started demonstrating his glass armonica. I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t have enjoyed it, mind you. I’m just suggesting, with the tone of a friend who only wants what’s best for you, that you can’t endorse that kind of thing and still single out any part of the Flotilla coverage as being “pointless and asinine.” No. Both, or neither. All right?

It’s actually cause for celebration. Your ecstasy at seeing video of a black dot sliding imperceptibly across a white dot comes from the exact same place as others’ delight at seeing an old lady on an upholstered barge. It’s an opportunity for us to celebrate the irrational foibles that unite us as humans. Let’s not quibble about which reaction is “rational,” eh?

And while we’re on the subject of a nice old lady’s inexorable march towards the grave: has the world community of lame comedians made any plans for the post-Queen Elizabeth II era?

Think about the paradise that three generations of male comics have been living in. For 60 years, if they had a bit that required an impression of the reigning English monarch, all they needed to do was deliver their lines with a vaguely-posh accent in a high falsetto. Done!

But once the Queen bites it, the free ride is over. I’m not sure that enough people even know Prince Charles’ voice that any impression would work, no matter how accurate. Every comedian with a King Charles III joke will need to brace themselves for a puzzled silence from the crowd, followed by the sincere question “But why has Hugh Grant been made King?”

If I were a lame comedian, I’d start working on a solution right away. It might be easier just to keep bumping off everyone in the line of royal succession one by one, until you hit upon someone with either a lisp or a terrible stutter.

I suspect that after you’ve drilled through the top eleven or twelve on the list, the thirteenth would be jittery enough to have acquired jittery tics that you’re looking for.

12 thoughts on “All Banality Is Relative

  1. Sam

    The transit of Venus is a reminder that there are whole other worlds out there. That there is more to the universe than our daily experience. The flotilla tries to tell us that some people are better than others because of their birth. I know which one inspires me.

  2. Charlie

    Who is this HR you speak of – do you mean HM by any chance? And I thought the hat to be quite a nice little number.

  3. Andy

    …HR is like one of the Mars Rovers…

    Boring I may be, but the Queen is to be referred to as “Her Majesty”. Don’t feel bad, though — the BBC got that one wrong, too, and they should know better.

    I rather liked the flotilla, actually, although by all accounts the coverage was terrible; attempts were made to, er, ‘spice it up’ (and failed dreadfully). It’s not supposed to be exciting, it’s supposed to be patriotic — and educational, dammit.

  4. Chris

    Rory Bremner does an excellent Prince Charles. However, there’s a possibility that they’ll skip a generation and go straight to Will, and Di’s DNA has made him vapid rather than crazy. No fun to be had there.

  5. Lamar

    Rather off that a site called the “Celestial Waste of Bandwidth” disses a rare celestial event. I’m just saying.

  6. John Holderried

    Craig Ferguson is perfectly positioned with his Prince Charles impression.

    What are the odds on Elizabeth outlasting Queen Victoria? Only 3 years to go to break the record.

    People STILL don’t think Charles deserves to be king? Jeez, at this point the guy deserves some kind of break. I don’t know the man, but you wait 50-plus years for a job and see how you feel.

    It’s a figurehead position anyway, so who cares if he is or isn’t qualified or worthy? It’s not like he had wives beheaded, like some English kings I could mention.

  7. Derek Giromini

    I am excited for the Brits when I catch one of these celebrations, be them royal weddings or jubilees. They celebrate their nationalism with more earnestness than Americans do.

    The only holiday that excites Americans is Christmas because it involves buying things and childhood memories about receiving things.

  8. Mike Tonge

    “The Brits have put a lot of miles on this Queen and they’ve kept her in service long past the date when they think about de-orbiting a monarch”

    This is a good demonstration of why monarchs should be given a FULL service and gin change every year. Just giving the crown jewels a polish and emptying the ash-tray is not enough!

  9. Tony

    We, and by that I mean the Great British Public, are well used to Prince Charles being lampooned and there is a great amount of scope latent in Prince Harry. I was amazed by the Flotilla because I didn’t think we could still organize this sort of thing. Pity the French dockers and railway workers decided not to strike as we were well prepared.
    The point of the Monarch in British Constitution is to advise and council the PM. HM The Queen has years of this knowledge tucked away and is going to be a terrible loss when she passes on. Charles has been understudy for years but is a bit like an incomplete backup, he will have to wing it a bit.
    I don’t know if you have seen the concert but it was staged well and proved that Sir Tom still takes some beating, also that a large crowd marching toward a palace doesn’t need to be a sinister thing. Also Madness still rock.
    Cannot wait to see your take on the Olympics.

  10. Carol Hendrick

    From another perspective, these big royal events: Weddings, Funerals, Jubilees, etc. give much joy to lovers of great choral music in its native hapitat. No, I’m NOT talking about the very odd sight of Renee Fleming singing a chopped up version of “Un bel di” on the steps of the palace (what was appropriate about THAT aria?). But: Not much is more impressive than British cathedral music in the setting it was meant for. So it is OK if we enjoy that??

  11. Russ Stauffer

    Thanks you Andy. Love reading your thoughts — all of them, whether funny or serious, agreeable or not. You are the best example of living life peacefully on your own terms that I know.

  12. henderson101

    You don’t need to use money with the Queen’s head on in the UK. Get yourself a supply of Scottish tenners… no sign of the Queen on many of them (and there are 3 or 4 banks that issue different designs.) They are legal tender (though you might get a few questions asked) and you can feel all anti Queeny and such like.

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